Ah–Fishing and Nuptial Bliss–JOY!

Sending this Wednesday night, August 21. Will fly to Portland tomorrow morning early and will fish Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

As a spark, this picture was posted today on Facebook, a Coho salmon caught out of the Columbia River. Zorba will hopefully lead us to these fishy guys…they are a great size, so gifted filets are on the menu. Here’s the picture I hope can be yours truly and friends this coming weekend:

With no less importance—actually even more than filling nets with Coho’s, is this picture. Howie and Diane Skoien celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this month.

They have been as faithful and caring as anyone in any church I’ve served.

Sanctuary was St. Pauls Church in Chicago on August 9, 1969. Their wedding. And what a joy for me…I got to officiate. EVERY year of that great day they write with thanksgiving. WOW! Go, Howie and Diane! Yes! Fifty years and counting!

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Needs More Important Than Laws

I don’t run red lights. I’ve never shoplifted. And, to push this, I actually returned when the cashier gave me too much change.

Truth? Not self-exclaiming. Simply “the way it is,” the very way it is.

From the get-go my parents taught me to “consider the situation” not the Bible. Well, not in those words. I was Bible-respecting, law-abiding. I went to confirmation and was duly confirmed. And, yes, not by the first-to-teach-me-pastor. He was arrested for his pedophilia. I was never in his clutches or intrusions. My father and I even took him fishing.

So what? Well, I consider it a VERY SO WHAT.

For sure I don’t know the Bible as well as I perhaps should. Emphasis upon the “perhaps.” I do know the basics and try to, fanciful language, incarnate them in my life…more so…in my living.

What’s basic, though, and where this is going, is triggered by a short yet pithy and very deep paragraph this morning from Tom Ehrich…goes like this:

“Jesus’ behavior was this kind of radical. He saw persons — a woman unjustly accused, a man struggling to forgive, a crowd famished, a man burdened by wealth — and, without regard to religious niceties, he stepped in. In his small venue, he made things better, not more pious.”

The ethicist Joseph Fletcher saw it this way: When you act, the prompter Should be, HOW IS LOVE SERVED IN THIS SITUATION? The title to same is “Situation Ethics.” I believe that is the mantra of Jesus and the will of God.

I work on that. Always asking…and honestly do my best to conceal my deeper intent upon the, what I call “surface social”—the “how are you?” satisfies that—ask the question: WHAT DOES THIS PERSON NEED?

Most of the time? Nothing.

And yet, sometimes I hit bulls-eye. Just recently, and I won’t share her name, one of my Randall’s buddies looked “down and grim.” She walked up to me and looked down and looked up with teary eyes.

I listened. As well as I could. And reflected when she asked, “What should I do?”

I didn’t and rarely ever give a “should.” Don’t like that word. I simply listened and told her that “I am with you. I’m with you.”

No, not self-virtue. Simply knowing in my heart what is needed. And what the other’s situation requires.

Sometimes? Nothing. Sometimes, more often than not, “fine thanks” is the apt response and depth.

But, when the need is there…IT IS THE NEED that should govern who we are and what we do.

Yes, red lights are important. But. Most important is for us to relate to one another based upon the situation…not judgment upon whether or not we like someone…or as is happening today with such frequency and brutality…if someone likes us.

Live in love…and do what you and I can…to recognize and reduce human need.

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Ever Been Fat-Shamed?

The sermon yesterday morning…profound and connecting, a great combination…made it clear: “The Kingdom of God does not make peace with injustice.” That seed planted within me will grow.

Pondering that, two images came to mind and heart and soul…perhaps to you, too.

The first image is of President Trump speaking in New Hampshire, when in the middle of a speech he turned and blasted a man who was overweight, in so many words telling him to go home and start exercising. The first response was I don’t ever want to see President Trump in a swimming suit.

But, the second response was, how dastardly and cowardly and unjustly. To chafe at someone who’s overweight. Might be, at least half of those who read this blog could benefit from a Diet Center, myself no exception.

But, so much deeper, the need to criticize someone who doesn’t agree with us. I am more convinced than ever that President Trump regards at the highest and clearest level, a regard for others based upon whether they favor him or not. It matters not the content of the agreement or contention.

And then. To prove my point, President Trump was informed the person he fat-shamed IS A SUPPORTER. So, a phone call was made. Ah, how instructive…and more deeply…how destructive with a regard based more on attitude than content.

And then. Another image. Perhaps you saw how a widower in El Paso…he lost his wife in the horrific slaying of almost two dozen people by a “hate Mexican” racist…shared that no children were in El Paso. Anyone was invited to his wife’s funeral.

I attach the story…saw it and wiped tears…how profound…for the response was based upon his need…the flowers were everywhere and the pews were filled. A matter of caring. A matter of real caring.

Guess it poses…how do we regard each other? Based upon what people think of us…or based upon the manner in which we regard life? For, my pastor this morning made it clear…to be part of the Kingdom of God…do NOT make peace with injustice.

Here’s the link of what really matters:


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Preaching–Nothing More Than Planting Seeds

I never received a graduation certificate on “Learning to Preach.” Yes, seminary helps. Harry Baker Adams and Bill Muehl knew homiletics [aka preaching]. Although I do believe I was sensing my preaching left much to be desired—self-imposed—so I never preached in seminary. Nor in my field work ministry at Brookfield Center.

I did learn—shared very previously—that to read from a manuscript may have good flow and images—the connection between the word and the heart many times lacked bridging.

That was sharply intoned once by Verne Fish in Lakewood, Colorado, when I lost my place in my manuscript. The awkward silence of coughing and the looking at watches was shattered by the response of Verne when I confessed, “I’ve lost my place!”


So, for the last twenty years I’ve had no sermon manuscript. That doesn’t mean only 3 sermons—for the truth is most ministers only have 3 themes. I do focus upon the lectionary—the four scripture lessons designated for every Sunday.

I also learned the content of the sermon, the focus, the purpose, the hope of impressing people [hey, cannot leave that out!] requires three documents: The Bible. The current news. And, what most ministers neglect, the church roster.

That means the “howness and needs of the members.”

There’s something else, though, I’m still learning; hence no graduation degree for preaching and learning and sharing.

That is, to know if the sermon is connected to where the person is.

I do know in response to the blogs, mostly when people respond, the blog has “found them.”

But, what about the sermon?

The last couple times I’ve preached, people have responded with comments and notes. And most ministers can tell if either is genuine.
Down very deep, though, I am unable…and live with never knowing…if the seeds I’ve planted—or at least tried to plant—take root and grow.


That’s never happened and I won’t ever expect it to. I can live with that.

All triggered—yep, here it comes—by what follows. A truth that abides and in its own way, takes root and grows:

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An Update on Joanne Carlson Brown

An update with an affirmation of gratitude. The second first. My thanks—profoundly so—for your prayers for my dear colleague, Joanne Carlson Brown. She had her back surgery. What a marathon! Surgery began at 7:30 a.m. and ended at 6:30 p.m.

The doctor indicated alignment issues took time. He felt it was successful. Joanne wrote in thanksgiving for our prayers. She realizes the recovery won’t be overnight. Still, her congregation, the Methodist Church in Des Moines, Washington, her many friends and so many of you continue in prayers.

Joanne and I have been the best of friends since 2005 when I served the Washington United Church of Christ Conference as Conference Minister and she served a dual standing [which is better than duel standing!] church in University Park. Her journey has been tough—with the cancer death of her spouse, Christie, and then her car accident in Canada [she’s Canadian] a month or so ago when her car rolled twice.

Now. The surgery recovery. Please include Joanne in your prayers…I am grateful. So very much.

Here are two notes from her this morning:

“Thank them and you. Surgery started at 7:30am and was over 6:30 pm

Thanks finally getting to my emails even if they won’t make sense. Surgery went well but he said there were a lot of discs that needed realigned.”

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Darkness Doesn’t Last

Started my day with this picture. Called it “Haunting Sunrise.” Sure. Not the best way to start a Friday. Yet, it takes no imagination to know how “haunting” life can be. More directly, is.

Could list where this picture fits. Won’t detail. You are more than capable to talk of your own circumstance, the challenges, the negatives.

Then, I looked again. It’s a sunrise in Alaska from my Forks, Washington guide, Bob Ball. Probably oh-dark-thirty.


Two things in this picture…the darkness will leave…won’t vanish, but leave. The day will lighten.

But, more.

Look closely. See it? For me it’s always a sign of hope, of “yes, we will be okay.” Maybe not for you. But, for me, see it?

On the lower left—the fishing rod. That means knowing Jesus didn’t shy away from fishing. Nor did the disciples. They spent the night, starting the new day with empty nets. Yet. Jesus met them and told them to keep fishing. Although this time put the nets on the other side of the boat. They did. In fishing lingo, tight lines and bulging nets.

Then went on Facebook and saw what can—be stronger, should—guide and motivate and incarnate my day…hopefully yours, too.

I always feel better, so much better, when I don’t wallow, when I don’t succumb to the self-pity, the woe is me. I always feel better when I give, in a direct manner, have this picture be the credo of my life…even more, believe me, than having tight lines and full nets. Yep. Simply: be kind. Be gentle. Be caring.

Such a difference for the good…and the imbalance toward goodness in each day…even this Friday, August 16, 2019…yes, it do!

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Called To Be….

The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. I go with Jeremiah on this…that we ARE NOT to separate Nature from Nature’s God.

This morning, Thursday, August 15, 2019, I “cruised” through some pictures. Received a note from our new and so very valued friend, Noelia, sharing her nervousness and excitement to begin her UT journey this Sunday. A note from Jennifer about linking with a bestest friend.

Also saw the quagmiring of life—the shoot-out in Philadelphia during which six policemen were injured, the shoot-out of the Cubs, 11-1. Hey, always a Cubs fan. The question and concern about the future.

Then I fastened on pictures that I now share…that say so much to me about how life can be celebrated. Starting with the Gratitude Stone…the centering of each day:

Being at Buoy Ten next week…with Zorba…the pounding surf:

That wonderful moment when it’s FISH ON! Look closely—see the fish under the bobber?

And then, the river runs through it…in paraphrase…about life itself. Marinating on all this helps each day, the dawn, the dusk…the very essence of God’s gift of time. For each of you, no matter what or where or when, may you know that life beckons us to be. To be. Yes. To be…..

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